Twitter has filed a lawsuit to the U.S. government for its right to disclose more detailed information on government surveillance of its users.
— Twitter (@twitter) October 7, 2014
The move continues a clash between the world’s biggest tech giants and Washington, D.C., that has intensified in recent months.
In its 19-page complaint, Twitter argued against the government’s position that all “similarly situated companies” are bound by the agreement.
Our ability to speak has been restricted by laws that prohibit and even criminalize a service provider like us from disclosing the exact number of national security letters and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court orders received—even if that number is zero,” Ben Lee, Twitter’s legal counsel, wrote in a company blog post on Tuesday.
Twitter’s lawsuit on Tuesday alleges the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are violating the social media company’s First Amendment rights by restricting what the company is able to disclose about the scope of the government’s national security requests for user data.
Twitter seeks the ability to publish the number and type of government requests it receives for user information in greater detail.
“In a statement, Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said: “Earlier this year, the government addressed similar concerns raised in a lawsuit brought by several major tech companies. There, the parties worked collaboratively to allow tech companies to provide broad information on government requests while also protecting national security.” An FBI representative pointed to the Justice Department’s statement.
Since the Snowden revelations, many technology executives say their companies are being pressured by consumers and overseas competitors to prove they are not helping the U.S. government intrude on their customers’ privacy. Apple Inc., which also wasn’t part of the government settlement, and Google are currently at odds with the Justice Department over encryption of data on phones. Microsoft is fighting a government warrant to turn over data held in a server overseas.
Microsoft Corp, Google Inc. and others have already applied for permission to share more information on surveillance requests with the public.
The US government has said that it will publish the total number of national security requests for customer data annually.
Read the full twitter blog here